Thursday, December 18, 2014

Even If I believed In God I Still Wouldn't Be A Christian


The religion that I am most familiar with is Christianity, because it's the dominant religion in the culture that I grew up in. And although I'm reasonably knowledgeable about Islam and Judaism, I primarily debate with Christians. The Christian apologist has two goals when he's trying to convert you. First, he has to try to convince you that god exists. Not just any god. It has to be an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving god. Then he has to try and convince you that Christianity is true. That is to say, that there is only one true religion, and it is Christianity. That means (in most cases) that he must try and convince you that Jesus was the son of god and died for our sins and that salvation can only be achieved by believing this.

In my opinion, this is a monumental task for an apologist to fulfill, especially to a well informed skeptic like myself. Not only does the Christian have to show me Jesus is divine, he has to make a convincing case that Jesus even existed in the first place. It's no longer a given that Jesus existed and that the New Testament accurately describes the events surrounding him. In fact, there is plenty of room for doubt. (I've become a little bit obsessed with the debates over the historicity of Jesus between mythicists and Christians.)

That said, even if you could convince me god exists, I still wouldn't be a Christian. I simply cannot trust the Bible as a book that describes god or history accurately. It's flawed on so many levels I can grant you an omni-god's existence and the Bible doesn't become 1 percent more plausible. The same is true for the Koran. In fact, since Christians believe in the same kind of god as Muslims do, and yet they reject the Koran's divine authorship, they way they view the Koran would be the same way I'd view the Bible if I believed in god: man-made.

If I believed in an omni-god it wouldn't change anything about me. I'd still have the same moral beliefs, political beliefs, the same views on sex, money, and family, and I'd still have most of the same goals and aspirations - I'd just believe in god. That's it. I wouldn't praise god, or worship it, and I wouldn't claim to know anything about it or its will. I'd hold the view that no one else can either, because god existing doesn't make any supposed revelation any more probable than a lie or a hallucination, no matter how brilliant it seems. After all, regular people have have brilliant ideas all the time who claim no divine inspiration.

I think it's logically impossible to connect the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving god, to Yahweh. You'd have to twist your logic into a pretzel to even try, and it still wouldn't work. I'd challenge anyone to make a coherent argument trying to do this. To me, belief in god is irrelevant to what's just, what's moral, or what our purposes in life are. There is simply no way of knowing what a god would want even if it existed. And no human being can be trusted when they tell you they "know" the mind of god. Period.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christianity and Homosexuality


The topic of homosexuality continues to be a hot button issue among many Christians. Most liberal Christians have accepted homosexuality as a natural aspect of human nature that is not harmful or sinful and have moved on. Most conservative Christians however, still think homosexuality is a sin that is unnatural and an abomination, and should either be discouraged or outright punished. Then there are Christians in the middle of this spectrum who are somewhat undecided on whether it's a sin per se,  it's unnatural, or should be tolerated.

Personally, the relationship between Christianity and homosexuality always showed me what a farce Christianity is. There are many reasons why. From within the conservative Christian mindset, I ask why god would create people who only desire a form of sex that god has deemed an abomination, and that possibly warrants the death penalty? This never made sense to me. So the conservative Christian often responds by saying that god didn't make anyone gay, rather, gay people "choose" to be gay through sin out of free will. This makes no sense either given the evidence. One cannot "choose" what sexually arouses them. I cannot make myself get an erection from something that does not naturally turn me on. I either get aroused, or I don't. I don't choose what sexually arouses me. So why would a heterosexual man, who is sexually aroused by women, one day "choose" to only get an erection by other men? That just doesn't happen. Homosexuals are wired to be sexually aroused by the same gender and is not something of their choosing.

So, the fundamentalist position on homosexuality is obviously false. Homosexual desire is not due to willful sinning, it's something innate. And that leaves us with the moderate position within Christianity, who rejects the fundamentalist's view that homosexuals are just straight people who are willfully sinning and recognizes that it's an innate part of human sexuality, but are not willing to go as far as the liberal Christian and say that homosexuality is just as normal and good as heterosexuality. That is, they still think it's a sin and against god's will, even though they acknowledge it's put into the "design" of human beings by god.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Video Showing How Secularism In The West Helped It Dominate In Science And Warfare




Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Blog Post 2014


It's time for another mandatory Thanksgiving Day blog. Holy shit what happened to 2014? It's true what they say, as you get older time seems to fly by faster. When you're a kid, 5 years is a lifetime. When you're in your 30s it doesn't seem that long. I remember being a teenager back in 1999 hanging out with my friends talking about bands that had started in the 80s, like Metallica, Slayer and even the Beastie Boys. Back in 1999, the 80s seemed like ancient history, but it was really only 10 years prior. Now when I think of ten years ago, it just doesn't seem like it was that long ago. I have fresh memories of 2004. I can't believe that 1999 is as long ago from 2014 as 1984 was to 1999. Man time flies, but it doesn't flow.

I want to comment on the recent events in Ferguson Missouri. I don't have any personal views on the case because I wasn't there and I cannot say for sure what really happened. But I can say that it is very apparent that we have a system that treats minorities differently than white people. I also want to say that protest is important. Regardless of what your politics are, if you do not protest and make yourself heard, you cannot expect change to happen. Protest is a fundamental right. There would be no Civil Rights "Movement" if there were no protests. Civil disobedience is a necessary condition for bringing about change. I'm a little bit ashamed that I've never taken place in a protest, being how political I am. I would have considered going out in the streets to protest the Ferguson decision, but I'm recovering from surgery I had earlier this month and I can't really move without pain. I've actually been home for 6 weeks.

Which brings me to what I'm thankful for this year.

I'm thankful for modern medical technology. We take it for granted that we can go to a hospital and get treated for an ailment or a disease that decades ago would have killed us or left us in a debilitating condition for the rest of our lives. I thank the professionals, the doctors, and scientists who advance our technology and knowledge in the medical field. I owe them big time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Greatest Stupidity


Someone slipped a Christian pamphlet under my door today as I was debating the nature of god with several theists online. Gotta love irony. The pamphlet is called "The Greatest Tragedy" and says "the greatest tragedy is the death of someone who could have been saved!" It even mentions the worldwide flood story of Noah - as fact - and says that wasn't as tragic as the possibility of them being saved. You have to get a kick out of those who thinks that a worldwide genocide of the entire human race, save one family, and billions of animals, save one pair of each "kind" is not worse than then people's "salvation."

Christians, I know you're really trying hard to make your religion seem plausible, but you've got a huge image problem at your hands. Take it from me, and the millions of people who think your religion is utter nonsense. The most ignorant among you make the most noise. They are the ones we hear about. They are the ones who take your religion seriously. Any educated adult who still thinks the worldwide flood story in the Bible is real needs to have their head examined. When will religious people learn that the Bible is not the evidence, it's the claim. Don't assume that events reported in the Bible are fact. They're not. Almost none of the shit that happened in the Bible, happened in real life. There was no Adam and Eve; there was no flood; there was no Jewish enslavement in Egypt; there was no mass exodus; there was no military conquest of Canaan. The four Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses. Paul never met Jesus and wrote his Epistles 20 years at the earliest after Jesus supposedly died. At least 7 of the Epistles aren't even considered authentic by most mainstream New Testament scholars. The Bible has hundreds of contradictions. And few, if any, of its analogous stories even make any sense given the true nature of our animalistic evolutionary origins.

Did god really think that creating man in "his image" by way of an evolved primate was going to allow us even the possibility of having a sinless nature? You gotta be fucking kidding me. No Christians, if you want to convince informed, educated people, who aren't vulnerable from hardship and ignorance, that your religion is true and that all other competing worldviews are wrong, you've got to try much, much, much harder. You pretty much have to shed as much of the irrational and non-scientific bullshit from your religion as possible, and that means dropping the Biblical historicity of most of these ridiculous events. It's an impossible task, because the meaning and foundations of Christianity fall apart without them. It simply makes no sense bereft of the fundamentalist presuppositions.

"The Greatest Tragedy," then, is actually believing any of this bullshit to be true. It's The Greatest Stupidity. Allowing yourself to get infected by the social disease that is religion, whether it comes in the form of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or any of the thousands of strains out there, is the greatest tragedy of mankind, who, of all known species has the unique ability to apply reason and rationality to his view of the world. Religion keeps us steeped in superstition and ignorance and prevents us from seeing the world the way it truly is. So, I've been inoculated from this blinding disease. You can't use fear to try and persuade me, you need to use facts. But facts are the one thing religionists don't have on their side! And that's another one of their tragedies. The first is that many of them were helplessly brainwashed into their religion against their will as children, that's tragedy number one. The second is that many of them remained in the bubble of religious ignorance after growing up, often due to force or social pressure and isolation. The third is that uneducated and vulnerable people often fall victim to apologists offering "forgiveness" and "salvation" by playing into their fears and hopes. It's tragic. But it doesn't have to happen. Inoculate yourself now!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Is God Really Simple?


Theists like to make a big deal over Richard Dawkins' objection in The God Delusion that to posit a god as the creator of a complex universe, one has to posit an even more complex god. Theists typically react to this objection by saying that god is simple, and point to god's non-physical nature as having no moving parts. I get that a non-physical being is physically simple, but this common theistic reply assumes that the only kind of complexity is physical complexity. It totally ignores conceptual complexity. Thus, I'm arguing that god is conceptually more complex than the universe is physically complex. This is supported by the ability for us to understand the universe in terms of laws of physics and every theist admitting that a true understanding of god is fully beyond human comprehension. If our universe is comprehensible and god is not, then the universe is more simple than god. The fact that the laws of physics are currently incomplete says nothing about the universe's intelligibility. If fact, the universe's intelligibility is used as an argument for god's existence!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Why We Tend To Infer Design And Purpose In Nature


Here's a quote from a New York Times article by Paul Bloom and Konika Banerjee on why we tend to believe things happen for a reason:


This tendency to see meaning in life events seems to reflect a more general aspect of human nature: our powerful drive to reason in psychological terms, to make sense of events and situations by appealing to goals, desires and intentions. This drive serves us well when we think about the actions of other people, who actually possess these psychological states, because it helps us figure out why people behave as they do and to respond appropriately. But it can lead us into error when we overextend it, causing us to infer psychological states even when none exist. This fosters the illusion that the world itself is full of purpose and design.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?


Almost all atheists live by the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. We recite it almost like a reflex whenever some theist trots out a claim to the supernatural "truth" of their religion. The atheist demands a high standard of evidence because the nature of the claim is high. But realizing the difficulties with being able to produce extraordinary evidence to support their extrodinary claims (which they can't), some theists have chosen to attack the principle instead.

Randal Rauser is one of them. He's written criticisms of this popular atheist saying several times on his blog and even tried to parody it with the idea that "Extraordinary cars require extraordinary acceleration". There's a categorical mistake by comparing cars and acceleration to claims and evidence. Claims always need to be backed up by evidence, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary. For every claim, there needs to be evidence. The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the evidence should be. Seems reasonable. For cars, extraordinary cars do not require extraordinary acceleration. There's no relationship between how rare or unusual a car is and how much acceleration it needs. A custom made car that is one of a kind doesn't require any extra acceleration needs.

Randal objects to the idea that claims about god, virgin births, resurrections, and spirits living among us are extraordinary. He's thinks they're perfectly, well, ordinary. But there are problems with this position.

In order for something to be ordinary it has to be common, routine, standard, or typical. That's the definition of ordinary. So to claim that gods, virgin births, resurrections, and spirits living among us are ordinary, is to say that they are common, routine, standard, or typical. But things that are ordinary are uncontroversial because they are backed up by lots of empirical data and we experience them frequently.

People flying on airplanes are ordinary; people flying on magic carpets are not. We recognize this because no one has ever seen or documented a flying carpet. Thus, such claims would be extraordinary, because they aren't common, routine, standard, or typical. If we were living in a world infused with spirits, resurrected bodies, virgin births, and flying carpets, then a claim that there was a virgin birth, and a resurrected body 2000 years ago would be ordinary. But we don't live in such a world. We live in such a world where these things are never shown to have happened. And that's why such claims are extraordinary and require extraordinary evidence.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Chapter 1 Bad Religion)


On almost every page of Feser's book he seems to make about 10 ballsy points that I disagree with. It makes me want to refute his book line by line like I sometimes do with Christian apologists like William Lane Craig, but that would take me forever and isn't realistically possible. Instead, I will have to summarize what I think are his important points and address them, while hoping that I don't miss his intended argument.

Feser opens up chapter 1, entitled Bad Religion, mentioning the alleged conversion of Anthony Flew from atheism to deism. To be honest with you, I never knew about Flew until a few years ago, and even today I know little about him. He was known for being a prominent atheist during the 20th century, but in 2004, it was reported that he became a deist. I can see how many theists would love to showcase such an example of an atheist's change of mind. Feser brings up Flew's alleged conversion because he thinks it was due to an underlying adoption of an Aristotelian metaphysic, and Feser argues that this is what's been erased in modern philosophical thinking. Adopting classical Aristotelian metaphysics, Feser states, "effectively makes atheism and naturalism impossible."(7)

Without defining secularism again, Feser asserts it's a "religion to itself" and is "necessarily and inherently, a deeply irrational and immoral view of the world". (2-3) He accuses secularists of being intolerant of defectors with "close-minded prejudice" and that they hypocritically act just like the religious believers they oppose. (2) He seems to have no problem conflating "secularist" with "atheist."

There are many ways one can use the term secular. It has both a political meaning and a philosophical meaning. In the political sense, secularism is "the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries." To be a "secularist" in the political sense is to maintain that principle regardless of whether one believes in god or not. A theist can therefore be a political secularist. However, in the social or philosophical sense, secularism can be a "social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship." This definition can be almost synonymous with atheism, since virtually all atheists are secularists in the philosophical sense. But a deist can be a secularist in the philosophical sense too, and a non-religious theist arguably could be as well. This makes the term "secular" very confusing and the context it's being used in very important, and Feser should have made that less confusing by defining what he means, especially when he calls secularism "deeply irrational, immoral, and indeed insane." It seems that Feser is using the philosophical sense of the word rather than the political sense, but he never makes that clear.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The F-Word


There's a dirty work that begins with the letter F in the atheist community. It's often met with horror and disgust at its mere utterance and often as a result leads to a nasty argument. If you've guessed that it's faith, you've guessed right.

I generally define faith as the belief in things that you do not have good evidence for. The American philosopher Peter Boghossian defined it as "pretending to know things you don't know" in his book A Manial for Creating Atheists. Many theists want to define faith as belief in things you have good reason to think are true. The many ways to define "faith" are similar to the many ways to define "religion."


What is the role of faith in a religion that says the purpose of life is to "know" god? I've been curious to know from theists what they think the relationship between faith and god should be.

I ask this because there are so many theists trying hard to argue that there is indisputable evidence that god exists. If there are slam dunk arguments that "prove" god exists, doesn't that dissolve the need for faith in god? Conversely, I often hear theists saying that god doesn't want to give us proof that he exists, because then we wouldn't need any faith, we would just "know" it. So on the one hand there are some theists who are saying god gives us indisputable proof that he exists, and on the other there are some theists saying that god deliberately make his existence ambiguous and hidden so that faith is required in order to believe in him. And many of these theists claim to believe in the same god from in the same religion.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism (Preface)


Feser starts out the preface of his book going on a long tirade about the "metaphysical absurdity and moral abomination" of same sex marriage. He bemoans the "sexual libertinism and contempt for religion" that has been allowed to become common and public and no longer the "private eccentricities of a decedent elite". In doing so he comes off sounding a lot like Archie Bunker did when seeing the effects of feminism and the civil rights movement, and to me it's very off-putting.

Feser would fit right into the Fox News spin machine. In fact, he could be the spokesperson for the religious right. He's angry that homosexuality is now tolerated to the point where gays have the chance to marry each other (the horrors!). He's angry that belief in god is no longer the default position accepted by academics, scientists, and philosophers. He's angry that the New Atheists and "secularists" have ushered in the "near total collapse of traditional morality," as he phrases it. The bottom line is that Feser is very angry with the way things are and the way things are headed. And I can totally see why. If I were a conservative Christian, I'd be pissed at the direction Western culture is headed. "Traditional" values are being replaced by "progressive" values, traditional religion is being replaced by non-religion and atheism, and the cultural and legal power structures that have allowed religious conservatives a stronghold on society and politics for so long are collapsing. While this is all music to my ears as a progressive and an atheist, it's no wonder people like Feser are pissed.

Feser's conservative Catholic attitude towards morality, society, science, and philosophy are exactly why I'm an anti-theist and hold religion in contempt. The kind of theist Feser represents is what motivates me to spend the hours that I do trying to refute and help destroy the religious worldview that I think poisons the mind and is harmful (not to mention false). Feser not only contends that belief in god is perfectly rational when seen in its best light, he maintains that atheism is logically impossible. Secularism, he says, "ought to be driven back into the intellectual and political margins whence it came," because it's a "clear and present danger to the stability of any society". The thing is, Feser never actually defines secularism in the preface and seems to use it interchangeably with atheism. So it's not clear what he's arguing against and he seems to think his audience will just know that secularism means something tantamount to atheism, which is untrue. But nonetheless, these are bold claims and Feser knows it, and in the following chapters he will try and justify them all. For now, he just seems to need to get his disdain for New Atheism off of his chest.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Atheist Reviews The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism


A Christian that I often debate with was kind enough to buy me a book that he thinks makes a good case for god's existence and addresses many of the arguments made by the so called New Atheists. In return, I promised to actually read the book (of course) and write a chapter-by-chapter review of it here on my blog.

Well the book, called The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheismwritten by a philosopher named Edward Feser, arrived a few days ago. I've read the first chapter and the preface and I have to say that the book seems like an interesting read. I like Feser's writing style. He's very polemic and clear about articulating his point of view and he's able to keep my attention while reading (which is very important). And at 267 pages of content, the book isn't too long.

I had very little knowledge of Feser before being told of this book. He's an associate professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College according to Wikipedia. There are thousands of professors like Fesar who stay under the radar and never make a whole lot of noise outside of esoteric philosophy circles, and one can make a name for themselves by criticizing or debating big name philosophers and scientists, like those that comprise the New Atheists. But so far Feser is still relatively unknown, even to many theists and atheists active in the debate over god, religion, and secularism.

Feser's book is a critique of what's become known as New Atheism, and I'm told it's a very good one. Here on this blog I will be critiquing Feser's critique of New Atheism. But here's the problem. I don't always agree with many of the New Atheists myself. And to be honest with you, the only two books I've read in their entirety made by a New Atheist author is Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (which I still regard as an excellent critique of Abrahamic monotheism and its social effects),* and Sam Harris' The Moral Landscape. I've read part of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, which is arguably the most famous of the New Atheist's books, and I've read excerpts of Sam Harris' The End of Faith (which is the book that started the "New Atheism" phenomenon) and Daniel Dennett's, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. I agree with these guys on a lot of stuff, but not on everything. So when I criticize Feser it won't necessarily be from the perspective of the New Atheists, it will be from my perspective. And that means I might at times agree with Feser and not with the New Atheists, or I might disagree with them both.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

List Of Capital Offenses In The Old Testament


Here's a list of all the capital offenses in the Old Testament as compiled by Thom Stark in Is God a Moral Compromiser? It makes for a handy reference.

  • Premeditated Murder (Exod 21:12-14, 22-23)
  • Kidnapping (Exod 21:16)
  • Striking a Parent (Exod 21:15)
  • Cursing a Parent (Exod 21:17)
  • Rebelling against a Priest (Deut 17:12)
  • Rebelling against a Parent (Deut 21:18-21)
  • Sacrificing to Deities Other Than Yahweh (Exod 22:20)
  • Working on Saturdays (Exod 35:2)
  • Using Yahweh’s Name in Vain (Lev 24:10-16, 23)
  • Being the Owner of a Goring Ox That Finally Gores a human to Death (Exod 21:29)
  • Prophesying Incorrectly (Deut 18:20)
  • Sacrificing Children to Molech (Lev 20:2)
  • Divination or Magic (Exod 22:18)
  • Adultery (Lev 20:10-21; Deut 22:22)
  • Bestiality (Exod 22:19)
  • Incest (Lev 18:6-17)
  • Homosexuality (Lev 20:13)
  • Consensual Premarital Sex (If You’re a Woman) (Deut 22:20-21)
  • Temple Prostitution (Lev 21:9)
  • Rape of a Married or Engaged Woman (Deut 22:25)
  • Failure To Scream When Being Raped in the City, If You’re an Engaged Woman (Deut 22:23-24)

Interestingly, pedophilia and owning slaves is not a capital offense, but working on Saturday, premarital sex and prophesying wrong is. Considering how horrible this list is, it's a damn good thing we don't have absolute unchanging morality.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Does Acupuncture Work? (Part 2)


(continued from part 1)

Early last summer I began a series of acupuncture treatments to help myself quit smoking. My on-again off-again addiction to tobacco since I was 17 has been one of the most frustrating things to give up, and when Hitchens died of esophageal cancer back in 2011 after decades of having been a heavy smoker, the idea that I should really quit became more pungent. I know that smoking can degrade the quality of life, especially in the latter years, as well as cut years off of it and can cost tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. So when I heard that acupuncture can cure this addition, and that my insurance covered the treatment 100% I thought, why not give it a try.

After about 3 dozen sessions what has the result been? Did it cure me of my addition to tobacco? Did it get rid of the desire?

Even though I'm a skeptic, I admit that I wanted acupuncture to work really badly. But after several months of treatment, I can't say that it has cured me of my smoking addition. I definitely smoke less now than I did before I started the treatment, but I don't know if that was due to my psychological desire to quit or whether the acupuncture actually did anything. It is really hard to tell. Maybe the acupuncture just provided me a false sense of security, but I don't know.

Throughout the treatment I was continually asked by the therapists what my smoking level was. This made me feel like I had to report that I was smoking less because I wanted to make them think that it was working. But this also had the effect of making me smoke far less than I normally smoked. I eventually began having days when I didn't smoke any cigarettes at all, which I didn't have before the treatment.

YouTube Atheists


I enjoy my share of YouTube atheists from time to time. They can provide a lot of entertainment and help you understand and refute the many apologetic tricks theists never cease to conjure up.

One YouTube atheist I've come to like is this guy calling himself TheMessianicManic. I like his videos because they're usually short and to the point, no more than 5 minutes or so, and he takes on many of the common arguments theists make. I also like the style of his videos. They're well edited and straightforward and not too over the top. Check him out below:











This other guy CultOfDusty is pretty well known. This particular video humiliating Ray Comfort is genius.



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